Updated May 14, 2021 - 11:47 am
I enjoy the absurd. Makes for better voicemails.
(To that end, Patrick from Summerlin, I don’t own a dog fierce enough to inflict such horrific damage to my face. But thanks for reading.)
Traditional thinking within the archives of hockey tell us that entering a postseason with the idea of rotating goalies is a few pucks to the chops short of crazy.
Which is why I’m advocating the Golden Knights do just that.
We pause here for an angry uproar to subside from those who disturbingly walk through life worshipping a flower emoji.
I don’t know who the genius is that said a team once reaching the playoffs should stick with what got it there, but Pete DeBoer should at least ponder the option for more time than it takes to read this sentence.
The Knights coach again has a team talented enough to win the Stanley Cup. There is also little doubt as to what will be his most important decision when the divisional round begins.
Better yet, both.
Fresh goalie matters
It’s how DeBoer has handled his goalies during the COVID-19 condensed schedule, preferring to get the most out of what is a combined $12 million in salary manning the crease. Lehner missed a 17-game stretch with a concussion. Other than that, the rotation stuck.
“Did we know this was going to work?” DeBoer said. “No. Goalies are ingrained to feel like they want to play every night, and they like the rhythm of that. I give both our guys credit in that they have tried to park that mindset and have been open-minded about this and embraced it.
“I can tell you it’s the single most important reason we have the record we have and why we are sitting where we are — having a fresh goalie in every night at the most important position.”
So the argument to change now would be … because it’s not conventional?
Please. Welcome to the 2021 season. Welcome to a new world.
I get it. It’s not the easy way. History isn’t on the side of a playoff rotation. Few are the teams to have discovered any serious level of success employing the strategy.
Selecting a goalie at this time of year from a team that has two incredibly capable ones is about staying in the moment. It’s about trusting one’s gut and not heart.
If it’s strictly about numbers, then DeBoer should start Fleury and see where things go. His are better and more consistent than those of Lehner, though it’s not as if the latter’s goals-against average of 2.29 and save percentage of .913 are anything pedestrian.
The two combined to win the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals as a team this season, but I think defenseman Alec Martinez should be given at least a hunk of the hardware given he used every last limb and a few that don’t exist to block shots.
Things such as energy and fatigue are more a reality this season than past ones. The physical aspects. The mental ones. Having a rested No. 1 goalie in net each game over a long series could prove invaluable.
Game is changing
Yeah. I know. One guy might be coming off a bad outing when his turn comes up. Maybe the other wins his first two starts. It wouldn’t take much for DeBoer to ditch the rotation plan.
“It has been 100 years where you have a starting goalie and a backup, and that’s it,” DeBoer said. “I think the game is changing. I think a (rotation) is what teams are going to strive for going forward. (Fleury and Lehner) are so different in style. You couldn’t get more opposite.
“It’s like a knuckle baller and a fastball pitcher in your rotation. They’re two totally different goaltenders, and you have to prepare differently for both guys, so I think that’s a huge advantage.”
I’m not sure if there is a hidden message about his plans in there because hockey folks make attorney-client privilege look like a couple teenagers gossiping when it comes to keeping secrets.
But he sure didn’t discount the idea of a playoff rotation.
I like it. Maybe the only thing standing between the Golden Knights and a Stanley Cup is a little absurdity.
You know, beyond the weird obsession to a flower emoji.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.
Breaking down the goalies
Marc-Andre Fleury: 36 games, 26-10 record, .928 save percentage, 1.98 goals-against average.
Robin Lehner: 19 games, 13-4-2 record, .913 save percentage, 2.29 goals-against average.